42

DVD NTSC
Region 1
14-episode
box set

DVD PAL
Region 2
14-episode
box set
DVD PAL
Region 2
plain 4-episode volume
(Doctor Who Story No. 188, starring David Tennant)
  • written by Chris Chibnall
  • directed by Graeme Harper
  • produced by Phil Collinson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 45 minutes
Story: The Doctor and Martha find themselves on an overheating cargo ship that has 42 minutes left before freefalling into a sun in the Toragy system. What mysterious medical problem has the Captain's husband come down with? Who or what has sabotaged the engines? And why are Martha's phone conversations with her mother being monitored?

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Audio commentary by writer Chris Chibnall and executive producer Russell T. Davies.
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: Space Craft (12 min.) adding David Tennant (The Doctor), Freema Agyeman (Martha),
    Michelle Collins (McDonnell), Anthony Flanagan (Scannell), director Graeme Harper, production designer Edward Thomas,
    visual effects supervisor Barney Curnow, and visual effects producer Will Cohen.
  • David Tennant's Video Diaries
    • Behind the Scenes of "42" (9 min.) with Tennant, Agyeman, Chibnall, script editor Simon Winstone, Rebecca Oldfield (Erina Lissak),
      gaffer Mark Hutchings, 1st assistant director Gareth Williams, art director Lee Gammon, and costume assistant Kirsty Wilkinson.
    • Behind the Scenes of "The Weakest Link" special Doctor Who tournament (9 min.) with Tennant, Noel Clarke, John Barrowman,
      Camille Coduri, John Leeson, Mat Irvine, Nick Briggs, and Claire Rushbrook.
  • Out-Takes & Bloopers

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program.
To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.


Season 29 finally returns to its above average offerings with this worthy adventure. Chris Chibnall delivers a script teeming with excellent elements and ideas, inspiring master director Graeme Harper and his cast and crew to another enjoyable success - the best story since the season opener "Smith and Jones" (story no. 183).


The idea of answering a distress call in space remains a great way to believably bring our regular characters into an excellent adventure in an interesting place, and it's surprising that this hasn't been used more often since the show's 2005 revival. Thus from early on, the writing forms a logical path for revealing the setting which works well enough, but sadly skimps on the materialization effect for the TARDIS that would help brand new viewers understand the show better and give the tale greater repeat viewing satisfaction. This is happening too often on the better stories this season, and without any other satisfying TARDIS movements in the rest of the story, the adventure will have to take a minor minus mark here.

That said, the setting and main challenge are laid out with clarity and gusto in this opening, perfectly setting the audience up to understand the episode's bizarrely different title. Perfect. One can argue that the setting isn't all that much more original than the season's other offerings, with the exterior and associated computer voice messages paralleling "The End of the World" (story no. 162) quite closely, and the spaceship interiors paralleling the interiors of "The Impossible Planet" (story no. 178) in their gritty, industrial stylization of future space travel. Fine and dandy, but also note that I ranked those two stories at the top of their respective seasons, in part because of the imagination that went into their environments, and you will understand why "42" is giving us more of a good thing.

It's also sweet icing on the cake to hear the bit of dialogue near the beginning of the tale, when the Doctor satisfies his curiosity to know exactly where in the galaxy we are. It's the Toragy system, half a universe away from Earth, and not constrained by any of the numerous past, present, and future histories of Earth that we have learned from the show so far. That leaves so many possibilities open for the adventure to go in surprising new directions. And explore those directions it does.

It is very cool to explore the idea of a sun being a living creature, but for me the surprise was not so much the fact that it was alive as the fact that the other characters and the writers thought this was a rare and unanticipated situation - something which I suspect will one day make this story seem a bit dated. I automatically assume that all matter is alive, especially celestial bodies, and more especially suns and stars, albeit limited to a first density consciousness. To learn more about the density scale of consciousness in living forms, check out our article on "The Fourth Density". Curiously though, this Toragy sun seems to have developed the ability to express intelligence at a second or possibly third density as well. Very cool. This is why it's called science fiction, folks.

The plot proceeds along the typical formulae for a bottle story, with just enough whodunit thrown in to keep things interesting. As such tales go, this one is much better constructed than "The End of the World". Many typical story beats have the regulars and guest characters learning to work together to solve problems and put out fires, providing us with a base level of satisfaction. The counter stratagems of the antagonist's forces are also logical and believable, while maintaining a good deal of mystery until later stages of the story. But while the tale could rest on its laurels here and still be guaranteed a successful standard, it goes on to include a few unanticipated story beats as well. About half-way through the Doctor and Martha get to play a truly shocking, heart-stopping moment, with a very noticeably different atmosphere to everything that lead up to it. And there seems to be no logical way out of the predicament. If the show ever had to be converted back to 25-minute episodes, this would probably make the best natural cliffhanger of the season, and be perfectly timed. Sweet.

The guest characters are perhaps a bit less memorable than those of both "The Impossible Planet", which had twice as much time to develop its characters, and "The End of the World", which spent so much time parading them as caricatures that little time was left to involve them in a truly engaging plot. But the characters in this story remain a bit more enigmatic, and get the most believably "unstaged" introductions of the three stories. It is very cool to have the Doctor repeat their names as he meets them, often with far more clarity than their own Welsh accents could provide, because that helps him, and consequently the audience, remember their names when the end credits finally roll.

Director Graeme Harper has definitely worked his magic again on this one, creating a compelling atmosphere and a driving pace that keeps viewers glued to the screen and wanting to know what will happen next. Even for those who have already seen it, there's enough here to still be taken by surprise on repeat viewing. The one drawback to the story may be the large quantity of technobabble that is rushed through, both by actors with Welsh accents that are too thick to be easily understood outside Wales when speaking invented jargon at that speed, and by the Doctor who often rushes through too much jargon too quickly as well.


It is quite sad that none of the new music composed and performed specially for this episode ended up on the season's music CD. Murray Gold does a lot of super-cool stuff with percussive rhythms & beats, as well as some great invention of unconventional augmentation sounds & instrument choices, giving the story's audio track a disturbing hypnotic magnetism that further helps to keep viewers glued to the screen. Although a bit too cliché techno at the end of the first sickbay scene, the rest of the new music transcends its techno roots to become simply compelling. Excellent stuff - and one of the best repeat-listening scores of the season.

Several of the season's more recognizable themes are back as well, while one that is better known for another story actually makes its slightly out-of-place debut here. Perhaps most memorable amongst re-used music, however, is the very distinctive style of "stings" heard in "The Impossible Planet", making the comparisons between that story and this one even more obvious.

Music by Murray Gold
"All the Strange, Strange Creatures",
"Martha's Theme", "The Doctor Forever",
and "The Master Vainglorious" are available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who:
Original Music from "Series 3"

More info & buying options

"The Impossible Planet" is available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who by Murray Gold
Silva Screen SILCD1224

More info & buying options

One of the more disappointing aspects of the story is handed down from the executive producers: all the screen time spent finally acknowledging Martha as a proper companion. It's simply too late in the season for this to still be interesting, and we end up reliving too many of Rose's scenes from "The End of the World" and elsewhere that were never a good idea in the first place. Anything centered around the ridiculously magical cell-phone is the worst offender for me, with the conversations with her Mum being one of the most boring aspects of the story, and to quote her Mum's most accurate observation, most unwatchably, unpleasantly "rude". At other times, Martha's speech seems to have fallen into an ugly parody of Rose's, turning "th's" into "f's", and adding "yeah?" on the end of her statements to make them questions that beg for agreement. Ick. And weird, since Martha thankfully hadn't seemed to have ever spoken this way on the show previously.

However, when all is said and done, the Mr. Saxon angle is presented in the most intriguing fashion yet this season. In fact, it even seems to have developed into a proper conspiracy angle. Nice job. Much, MUCH better than what we got in the last story. Thank you, Chris Chibnall. On first viewing, however, it was still far less than what I'd hoped for. I wanted a full on revelation of the Master (or the Sontarans), and hopefully as far away from the over-used Earth settings as possible. It was starting to feel like the season had really delayed both of these revelations for far too long to remain well-constructed.


In the end, "42" is an engaging story that can be proudly held up as one of the better ones of season 29, and probably the one that most closely relates to the glowing fire / mad race imagery of the season's box set cover. Chris Chibnall is a much welcome new writer to the Doctor Who team, and I hope he has a chance to pen another story for the show soon.



This story has become available on DVD.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

DVD NTSC Region 1
14-episode boxed set
for the North American market:

DVD PAL Region 2
14-episode boxed set
for the U.K.
DVD PAL Region 2
plain 4-episode volume
U.K. format only

Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes only feature the plain episodes.


Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

Contact page


LYRATEK.COM


Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "Human Nature"



Home Page Site Map Star Trek Sliders Doctor Who David Tennant Era Episode Guide Catalogue